The Egyptian-American poet and pediatrician Sherry Shenoda is the winner of the 2021 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for her poetry manuscript Mummy Eaters.

Shenoda emerged winner from a shortlist that included fellow Egyptian poet Mariam Bazeed for Somewhere Sleeping, A Stranger, South African poet Vuyelwa Maluleke for The Blue Album, and Nigerian poets Adetayo Agarau for The Morning the Birds Died, Wale Ayinla for Sea Blues, and Chisom Okafor for Birthing.

The Sillerman First Book Prize, in its eight year, is administered by the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) and endowed by the philanthropists Laura and Robert FX Sillerman. It confers a cash award of $1,000 to the finest first full-length poetry manuscript by an African, as well as a publication offer from the University of Nebraska Press.

Last year’s award went to Zambian-born poet Cheswayo Mphanza for The Rinehart Frames.

Mummy Eaters explores the reverence of the ancients toward the human body as sacred matter as seen through the lens of the European practice of mummy eating,” said Shenoda, who was born in Cairo but now lives in Los Angeles.

“Much of the manuscript is written as a call and response, in the Coptic tradition, between the imagined ancestor, and the author, as descendant,” she adds.

Mahtem Shiferraw, past winner of the Sillerman Prize, said:Mummy Eaters is deeply rooted in place, in history, in marred history… I loved the seamless way it continues to unfold and unravel upon itself, upon ancient promises.”

Congratulations to Sherry Shenoda! We can’t wait to read Mummy Eaters.